VMPEA: Hang Wu
Hang Wu, PhD Student, Department of Cinema and Media Studies
“Information Processing: On Asian Cyberscapes in the Cyberpunk New Wave”
*Co-Sponsored with the Digital Media Workshop*
The new wave of cyberpunk animation, cinema, short video, and games that proliferated after the 2010s invites us to reconsider the relationship between the cyberscape—cyberized urban forms in cyberpunk works—and the cityscape of Asian megacities. Since the release of a series of cyberpunk films and TV animation in the 1980s, their assembling of Asian cityscapes into the imagination of the cyberized future has received attention from scholars. They conceptualize the term techno-orientalism and offer a post-colonial critique of the representation of the East as both a fetish and a threat to the West in cyberpunk media. However, the fascination with cyberpunk media has always been a global phenomenon since its emergence and has only become increasingly so in the 2010s, in tandem with the formation of transnationally dispersed fandoms and networks and transmedia production. The new wave of cyberpunk media, beginning roughly in the late 2010s, involves not only the release of many VFX-driven Hollywood movies but also animation and short videos on streaming platforms such as Bilibili, Netflix, Tik-Tok, and YouTube. As a globalizing form, cyberpunk media challenges the general assumption of the techno-orientalism approach, that cyberpunk is produced in the West and for the West to preserve its identity.
Blending media studies and critical area studies, this paper examines the cyberpunk new wave and argues that it offers a new perspective to consider the relation between cyberscape and Asian cityscape, which I call “information processing.” As Friedrich Kittler notes, the city is a medium that record, transmit, and processes information. The cyberpunk new wave highlights how Asian cities process information through its staging of information interfaces such as hologram projections, neon lights, lit-up screens and LED façades of high-rise buildings. Drawing on Kittler’s discussion of the city/medium as well as Gilbert Simondon’s notion of “in-formation” as the transindividual process that bears the potential for future transformations, this paper argues that cyberpunk media draws to the fore the city’s information processing function and intensifies our perceptions of the city as a global space located in Asia. Information processing serves as a key concept for considering Asian cyberscapes as well as the emergent and open future(s) they entail beyond the dichotomy between the East and the West in the techno-orientalism critique.
Hang Wu (She/They) is pursuing the joint Ph.D. degree in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Their research mainly focuses on how the more-than-human may help expand the understanding of media and sovereignty in the context of East Asia, especially China and Japan. Their work has appeared in journals and edited volumes such as Animation: an interdisciplinary journal and Sound Communities in the Asia Pacific.